Navigation Links
Satellites witness lowest Arctic ice coverage in history
Date:9/14/2007

The area covered by sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk to its lowest level this week since satellite measurements began nearly 30 years ago, opening up the Northwest Passage a long-sought short cut between Europe and Asia that has been historically impassable.

In the mosaic image above, created from nearly 200 images acquired in early September 2007 by the Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR) instrument aboard ESAs Envisat satellite, the dark gray colour represents the ice-free areas while green represents areas with sea ice.

Leif Toudal Pedersen from the Danish National Space Centre said: "We have seen the ice-covered area drop to just around 3 million sq km which is about 1 million sq km less than the previous minima of 2005 and 2006. There has been a reduction of the ice cover over the last 10 years of about 100 000 sq km per year on average, so a drop of 1 million sq km in just one year is extreme.

"The strong reduction in just one year certainly raises flags that the ice (in summer) may disappear much sooner than expected and that we urgently need to understand better the processes involved."

Arctic sea ice naturally extends its surface coverage each northern winter and recedes each northern summer, but the rate of overall loss since 1978 when satellite records began has accelerated.

The most direct route of the Northwest Passage (highlighted in the top mosaic by an orange line) across northern Canada is shown fully navigable, while the Northeast Passage (blue line) along the Siberian coast remains only partially blocked. To date, the Northwest Passage has been predicted to remain closed even during reduced ice cover by multi-year ice pack sea ice that survives one or more summers. However, according to Pedersen, this years extreme event has shown the passage may well open sooner than expected.

The previous record low was in 2005 when the Arctic area covered by sea ice was just 4 million sq km. Even then, the most direct Northwest Passage did not fully open.

The Polar Regions are very sensitive indicators of climate change. The UNs Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change showed these regions are highly vulnerable to rising temperatures and predicted the Arctic would be virtually ice free by the summer of 2070. Still other scientists predict it could become ice free as early as 2040 due to rising temperatures and sea ice decline.

Because sea ice has a bright surface, the majority of solar energy that hits it is reflected back into space. When sea ice melts, the dark-coloured ocean surface is exposed. Solar energy is then absorbed rather than reflected, so the oceans get warmer and temperatures rise, making it difficult for new ice to form.

The Arctic is one of Earths most inaccessible areas, so obtaining measurements of sea ice was difficult before the advent of satellites. For more than 20 years, ESA has been providing satellite data to the cryosphere communities. Currently, ESA is contributing to the International Polar Year (IPY) a large worldwide science programme focused on the Arctic and Antarctic.

Since 2006, ESA has supported Polar View, a satellite remote-sensing programme funded through the Earthwatch GMES Service Element (GSE) that focuses on the Arctic and the Antarctic.

In 2009, ESA will make another significant contribution to cryosphere research with the launch of CryoSat-2. The observations made over the three-year lifetime of the mission will provide conclusive evidence on the rates at which ice cover is diminishing.


'/>"/>

Contact: Mariangela D'Acunto
mariangela.dacunto@esa.int
39-069-418-0856
European Space Agency
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Satellites show Amazon parks, indigenous reserves stop forest clearing
2. Satellites shed light on global warming
3. Antarctic ice shelf retreats happened before
4. Ice core dipstick indicates West Antarctic ice has thinned less than believed
5. Grizzlies set to invade high Arctic?
6. B-15A collides with Antarctic ice tongue
7. Innovative collaboration brings Arctic science into the classroom
8. Census of Marine Life explorers surprised by diversity, density of Arctic creatures
9. Discovering an ecosystem beneath a collapsed Antarctic ice shelf
10. Industrial contaminants spread by seabirds in High Arctic, new Canadian study shows
11. Lands surface change on Alaska tundra creating longer, warmer summers in Arctic
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:2/8/2017)... 7, 2017 Report Highlights The ... from $8.3 billion in 2016 at a compound annual ... Report Includes - An overview of the global ... with data from 2015 and 2016, and projections of ... of the market on the basis of product type, ...
(Date:2/3/2017)... , Feb. 3, 2017  Texas Biomedical Research Institute announced ... Larry Schlesinger as the Institute,s new President and ... effective May 31, 2017. He is currently the Chair of ... the Center for Microbial Interface Biology at Ohio State University. ... the new President and CEO of Texas Biomed," said Dr. ...
(Date:2/1/2017)... IDTechEx Research, a leading provider of independent market research, ... a new report, Sensors for Robotics: Technologies, Markets and Forecasts ... ... Revenues ... "Sensors for Robotics: Technologies, Markets and Forecasts 2017-2027: Machine vision, force ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:2/23/2017)... and SAN FRANCISCO , ... privately-held regenerative medicine company, and Beyond Type 1, a ... type 1 diabetes, today announced a grant from Beyond ... functional cure for type 1 and other insulin-requiring diabetes.  ... has been developing innovative stem cell-derived cell replacement therapies ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... Feb. 22, 2017  Aratana Therapeutics, Inc. (NASDAQ: PETX), a ... of innovative biopharmaceutical products for companion animals, will host a ... a.m. ET to discuss financial results from the fourth quarter ... Interested participants and investors may access the audio webcast ... ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... ... ... Park Systems , a leader in Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) since ... attendees and Park customers on Feb. 27, 2017 from 12-2pm at Morton’s The Steakhouse ... The luncheon will feature a talk on Automated AFM for Small-Scale and Large-Scale Surface ...
(Date:2/22/2017)... Scientists propose in Nature blocking ... Gaucher and maybe other lysosomal storage diseases as a ... current therapies. An international research team led ... also included investigators from the University of Lübeck in ... 22. The study was conducted in mouse models of ...
Breaking Biology Technology: